Photo provided by the St. Clair Shores Historical Commission

Looking Back: St. Clair Shores Public Library bookmobile

St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 13, 2019


ST. CLAIR SHORES — For more than two decades, the residents of St. Clair Shores had the library come to them, via a bookmobile. For at least part of that time, this bookmobile was the only one operating in Macomb County.

Purchased in 1959, the first bookmobile started with a two-day-a-week schedule in 1960. By 1972, it operated about 100 days each year, serving approximately 10,500 patrons. In 1974, the bookmobile was making eight stops between Eight Mile Road and 10 Mile Road, and nine stops between 12 Mile Road and 14 Mile Road. This meant the bookmobile traveled about 1,500 miles per year. Pictured here, the interior of the first bookmobile is shown with librarian John Wivo and some of the books.

In 1975, the 14-year-old vehicle was replaced with a new model. An 18-foot-long, 96-inch-wide bookmobile was purchased from the Gerstenslager Co. of Wooster, Ohio. The company had been manufacturing commercial vehicles since 1860, when they were horse-drawn. The new bookmobile was paid for with $32,000 of city and federal funds, and featured bookshelves that held about 3,000 volumes, a desk and locker, a removable table, a clock, a bulletin board, and heating and air conditioning. At the rear of the bookmobile, patrons would find a padded seat where they could browse their selections before checking out.

From 1976 to 1980, about 200 books circulated each day the bookmobile was in operation. In 1976, 22,000 books circulated through the bookmobile. At any bookmobile stop, patrons could check out books, pay fines, or make special requests for books to be brought for them the next time. The bookmobile had regular stops in the neighborhoods, at schools and nursing homes, and at Leisure Manor, a home for senior citizens. The staff that operated the vehicle included a librarian and a clerk-driver, who worked in the library building on the days they were not on the road.

Due to budget cuts, bookmobile service in St. Clair Shores was discontinued in 1982. The city Department of Public Works auctioned the bookmobile in 1985.

— Submitted by Heidi Christein, archivist, St. Clair Shores Public Library